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Retro designs earn favor of city development panel

(ran South, East editions)

The Environmental Development Commission on Wednesday showed an appreciation for retro design.

The approved plans included neoclassical housing in the Crescent Lake area, a Key West-style retail/office/residential project in Bayboro Harbor, the renovation of a 1900-era home as a bed and breakfast inn; and a new use for the historical Betty Ann Hotel in the city's downtown.

The EDC meets each month to consider development projects that require variances or site plan approval; or requests for alley or right of way easements. If the requests are not too far out of line with city codes, the EDC will recommend approval to the City Council _ providing the developer includes substantial greenspace and other changes to improve the appearance of the project.

Among the items considered Wednesday were:

CRESCENT LAKE HOMES: A residential development, described by city officials as "a unique urbanized housing approach," was approved unanimously. According to the site plan submitted by Florida Properties of St. Petersburg, each home will have a veranda, a small back yard and a detached garage facing onto an alley.

The site design places the homes close to the street. The proposed 10 "pedestrian-friendly" homes will be on the north side of 14th Avenue N between Fourth and Fifth streets. The homes will sell for between $140,000 and $190,000, depending on the square footage.

"We are as enthusiastic about this project as is the neighborhood association. This has been much needed in the neighborhood for some time," said city planner Jamie Shelton. "The design features reinforce what is already prevalent throughout the Crescent Lake, Crescent Heights, Uptown and North Shore neighborhoods, and is part of what makes these neighborhoods such a desirable place to live."

Carol Henderson, president of the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association, said that many of her members were "aghast" at the project, "but we now feel we can very enthusiastically support it."

S-99-16 (F-10); SPR-99-036 (F-10)

BETTY ANN HOTEL: The hotel at 402-406 11th Ave. N will become an office building, while an associated retail building on Fourth Street, for years the site of a thrift shop, will be converted into an indoor restaurant and retail space, according to a site plan approved by the EDC. The Betty Ann, in the city's "Deco District," was built in the early 1900s. Commission Chairman Robert Bitterli said the neo-classical deco style of the buildings will be preserved. In approving the site plan, the EDC also approved the paving of a parking lot between the two buildings.

SE-96-005 B (F-8)

AUTO REPAIR: The EDC approved a special exception and site plan modification for an automotive service facility at 900 Fourth St. N _ a facility that has existed at that location since the 1920s. The present owner, Donald McCabe, ran into trouble with the city when he failed to perform site modifications outlined in a previous site plan approved by the EDC in 1996. A request to renew that site plan was turned down in 1997 because, said Shelton, "the neighborhood had lost faith in the applicant complying." Under EDC rules, McCabe had to wait a year to reapply and show the city he had removed debris and inoperative vehicles cited in multiple code violations issued by the city. Under the plan approved Wednesday, McCabe again will be able to legally operate his business.

SE-96-046 C (F-8)

BAYBORO LANDINGS: Key West or "seaside" styling will be used in a proposed commercial and residential project in the city's Bayboro Harbor area. The EDC approved a special exception and site plan for the project offered by Echelon International Corp. The 1-acre site at 1110 Third St. S will feature a 46,009-square-foot building. It will have three stories and an arcade and include a marine theme. The first floor will be primarily commercial: a sandwich shop in the existing dockmaster facility at the marina, as well as a restaurant, and retail stores. The second floor will be primarily office space. The third floor, with balconies commanding a view of the Bayboro Harbor area, will include 13 residential apartments. The project includes both adjacent and remote parking.

"This is an exciting development," said architect Don Mastry. "One of the goals of the Bayboro redevelopment plan is to encourage residential use. This is one of the first."

SE-99-024 (E-7)

BED AND BREAKFAST: A house built in 1910 by Perry Snell that was the residence of Vinoy Hotel developer Aymer Vinoy Laughner, will become a five-room bed and breakfast. The 4,000-square-foot, two-story house is at 532 Beach Drive NE, across from the Vinoy and the city's waterfront park.

"The home has a wonderful history," said owner Michael Roberts, who described how Vinoy developers selected the site for the hotel by driving a golf ball from the house's front porch. The house later became a "guest house" for the Vinoy.

SE-99-028 (E-6)

TYRONE CROSSINGS: A 7,600-square-foot commercial building with an outdoor produce display area will be built at the entrance to Tyrone Crossings Shopping Center, 7935 38th Ave. N. In 1996, George Tagaras was cited for selling produce on shopping center property without special exception approval. Since then, Tagaras bought the property from the center, negotiated joint parking and access, and developed plans to build a permanent building to replace the temporary stand.

SE-99-022 (F-8)

MCDONALD'S RESTAURANT: A McDonald's will rise at 1020 34th St. N, previously the site of Grandy's Restaurant, which will be demolished. Developers of the restaurant agreed to restrict departing traffic to 34th Street to reduce customer use of neighborhood streets (10th and 11th avenues N).

SE-99-023 (K-8)

BOB LEE'S TIRE: "We like to try to bring resolution and resolution is here," Architect Randy Wedding told the EDC as he presented, for the second time in two months, a plan to build a 2,500-square-foot addition to the rear of Bob Lee's Tire Co. at 1631 Fourth St. N. Last month, the EDC and residents were upset that a proposed site plan had been changed before the EDC meeting without their knowledge. After extended debate at that meeting, the EDC agreed to delay consideration for a month, to give the tire company time to show the plan to the area neighborhood association. With association approval of ingress/egress patterns and greenspace in hand, Wedding received EDC approval Wednesday.

SE-99-026 (E-10,12)

What is the EDC?

The Environmental Development Commission is a citizens board that meets the first Wednesday of each month to review large development projects. The board reviews and approves site plans and has the power to grant exceptions to city codes for elements of projects that do not conform. Decisions of the commission can be appealed within 10 days to the City Council. After approval, the petitioner has the city's permission to go forward, although further scrutiny may be required by other governing agencies.